Notes that I lack the time to explain will be marked with asterisks and given a brief explanation at the bottom of the article. So if you see this*, then that means a description of what I mean is given at the article’s end.
50. Arc En Ciel (Speedcar, Bahrain, 2009)
…You guys ever hear of Speedcar? No? Well…here the Speedcars were.
Speedcars were built using little of an actual road car (I think even LESS than NASCAR cars) and ran in tracks across the Middle East and Southeast Asia in 2008, their first year. They returned for a season that spanned both 2008 and 2009 and ran just in the Middle East, and promptly went bankrupt. Several F1 veterans dotted the 15 or so car grids, such as Ukyo Katayama, J.J. Lehto (pre-prison sentence)*, and Stefan Johansson. Johansson actually suffered probably the largest crash in Speedcar`s short run when he spun on entry to one of Dubai`s slower corners and tried to bring it across the track, but misjudged the closing speed of the two drivers behind him, namely Marcel Tiemann and Marchy Lee Ying Kin, and promptly did this.
Race two of the doubleheader, which was opening the 2008 to 2009 season, was then cancelled due to Middle Eastern weather being, well, itself.
Jean Alesi, however, brought the series some attention at the very last second in its final race at Bahrain when he jumped the rolling start, simply deciding he didn`t feel like waiting for the guys controlling the lights (admittedly they were taking forever) and getting a massive headstart.
You`d think they had done a standing start by how much of a gap Alesi gained. Not only were they actually doing a rolling start, but Alesi started 16th, which was last! He would eventually fall back and finish tenth in the final time around for Speedcar, an interesting idea that really no one cared about. If you`re curious who the champions were, Johnny Herbert won the first season`s title, and Gianni Morbidelli the second.
…Also, note the sponsor on Johansson`s car. Yeah, that`s how little money they had.
49. Hindrance (NBS, Chicagoland, 2004)
Todd Szegedy, a Modified veteran, decided to hop up to the Busch Series for a couple of races in 2004. Joe Nemechek gave him a shot in one of his cars, and Todd attempted four races, making three. He didn`t do terribly, as in the two races he finished, he placed the car in upper midfield. However, Todd returned the Mods after 2004, and has continued to run up front on a consistent basis.
Todd`s season highlight was at Joliet during qualifying. Oh hey, look, a giant inflatable orange!…I swear that`s a tangerine, actually. But whatever. During one of his laps, it came loose and started rolling down the circuit in three and four. Todd was allowed to do another lap after this. He made the race but crashed early. Admittedly, though, the 2004 Tropicana Twister 300 was a bizarre race in and of itself, being won by Justin Labonte after Mike Wallace ran dry on the final lap. Labonte didn`t finish inside the top 12 at any other point in the season. Oh yeah, and Bobby Hamilton Jr. won the pole, only to blow up before lap ten.
48. Battle Hymn Of The Talentless (USF2000, Atlanta, 1999)
The ‘talentless’ being Larry Foyt…
USF2000 is more or less a Formula Ford series…more or less. The series got started in 1990 and ended in 2006, then was brought back in 2010 as part of the Mazda Road To Indy. They do oval race, having done so a lot more in the pre Road to Indy era, though they still turn left once a year at IRP…well, usually IRP, this coming season it`s not on the schedule for some reason (instead their oval race is Iowa). As to why they don`t do so more often, well…
Atlanta 1999. But that`s not the real highlight. The real highlight is what they did in the three or so years prior.
When USF2000 started doing some testing at the new Miami Dade Homestead Motorsports Complex in 1996, they immediately noticed that this would be a no go. Instead of giving up, they put their heads together and decided on something rather bizarre. They`d use the esses on the backstretch! So the cars would pile into turn one and two, then peel off onto the esses instead of running three and four (this was of course when this track was a rectangle). As to whether or not they were able to demonstrate this during a race weekend in 1997, I`m actually unsure, but I do know that the 1997 schedule saw a support race to the IRL at Charlotte. Again, testing proved that the cars would need a slowdown area, so they did one of the strangest things I`ve ever seen.
The cars ran a chicane, but it was on the frontstretch. They would take the road course hook, which is a little ways down from the short track`s first and second turns, and follow it a short distance. The road course usually would then cross the pit road and enter the infield, but instead of doing this, the USF2000 cars would make a very hard right onto the pit lane when they reached it, and follow it into turn one. They would then continue the oval as normal.
…This worked, funnily enough. Homestead was definitely on schedule in 1998, and Charlotte returned. Also on the schedule was Atlanta, which also used the frontstretch chicane strategy despite having one in turn three already. All three of these races were doubleheaders. 1998 also had two full ovals on schedule, Phoenix and Disney.
1999 saw a doubleheader weekend announced for Charlotte and Atlanta, with Homestead off the schedule altogether, plus two ovals at Pikes Peak and Phoenix. Charlotte went on like normal, but then the promoter at Atlanta suggested, `Why not ditch the chicane?` Officials agreed, but several drivers didn`t and pulled out. The series had seen 30 car fields so far, but only 23 drivers (including a young man named Dan Wheldon) were up for running Atlanta. The doubleheader, which was supposed to consist of two 30 lap races, was turned into a 24 lap qualifying race and a 34 lap main. Somehow the qualifier went off all right, but the main event saw a crash. Of course.
Two cars making contact in the quadoval triggered a Big One that sent Larry Foyt flipping and several cars into the wall. Panama`s Arnold Brinkmann was found unconscious and not breathing when paramedics arrived. As one tended to Arnold, the other radioed in to his superiors, who decided that the race should be concluded then and there, which it was. Steve Rikert was declared the winner after 18 of the scheduled 34 laps. What actually happened to Brinkmann in the crash was never stated, but whatever the case, the first paramedic got him breathing again pretty quickly, and Arnold would be all right. This race was televised and the crash is available for you to see on Youtube via a basic search.
USF2000 stuck to the one mile ovals after this, and soon they were dropped and the series stayed on the road courses until the end of the initial incarnation in 2006. Star Mazda stopped by Homestead in 2000, and they used the backstretch esses as a slowdown area just like the USF2000 had. They didn`t return the next year, and the `Ovals with slowdown areas` idea was ditched completely, except for a quick return when the Pirelli World Challenge stopped by in 2007. In their case, they didn’t have a choice, as the infield was being repaved…
47. Black And White (NWS, Talladega, 1986)
I think you know this one.
When the command to start engines at the 1986 Winston 500 was given, not everyone had stepped into their cars. Specifically, the pace car driver was out talking to a few officials still. A young man in the pits noticed that this was the case, and that the driver had even been naïve enough to leave the keys in. Seizing his opportunity, the man, who had downed several beers by that point, hopped in the red Pontiac Trans Am and took off around the track. His 100mph joyride lasted a bit under two laps, as Alabama`s finest and track officials set up a roadblock off of turn four. The man seemed ready to plow through the roadblock, but eventually decided not to bust through them and instead slowed. The black and white approached swiftly and they ripped the man, twenty year old Darren Charles Crowder of Birmingham, out of the vehicle. The crowd was heard cheering for the cops on the broadcast (you`d think they would be cheering for Crowder), and he was taken into custody.
…I haven`t been able to find anything else about Darren, however. You`d think he`d be about as famous as Steve Bartman, or at least a sort of pre Internet Steve Bartman, but I`ve found very little on him…D.C. Crowder? More like D.C. Cooper, you know?
46. The Letter, ‘R’ (NBNoS, Watkins Glen, 2002)
While the 2002 Little Trees 150 Busch North race was famous for Troy Williams vaulting the barrier on lap one and almost falling into a spectator tunnel, I`m actually not including it, as I find something from later in the race even stranger. Dennis Demers, a journeyman out of Vermont who had few words to say and an `I race for fun!` attitude, learned just how fast the esses are via a well taught lesson.
Cars just couldn`t stop rolling that day. Williams and an unknown driver (possibly Martin Truex Jr., of all people) had gone for wild rides during the first lap pile up, but there was actually another flip that cameras only caught the aftermath of. Yes, three cars rolled that day. Dennis Demers blew a tire just past halfway. Unfortunately, it was the left front in turn two. Demers` 86 car went straight into the wall and, according to Demers, didn`t bounce off, so it may have gotten on top of it. The crash ripped the guardrail apart in several spots, some on the top half, some on the bottom half. It was like a lattice with several random pieces missing. Demers` car basically dropped onto its roof in the crash. Fortunately for Dennis, he was driving a stock car, not an open wheeler*, and climbed out unscathed.
The weird thing about this crash is just how the guardrail ended up. It was very much a sort of `one piece missing here, one piece missing there` case, and since Speed Channel never got a replay, we dunno how exactly this was accomplished.
45. Americans Do It Wrong (V8Star, Lausitz, 2003)
Touring cars…oval racing?
V8Star was a series that ran for three years in Germany between 2001 and 2003. It was somewhat along the lines of DTM, and besides what it did in 2003, wasn`t anything special. In 2003, however…
CART isn`t the only series to oval race at Lausitz. ASCAR, the American style stock car series that mostly ran at Rockingham in England, made a couple trips to Lausitz, and in 2003, V8Star scheduled a few visits. Four races were run at Lausitz, one road race and three oval races.
The first race in May was the road course, and it went fine. One oval race was held in early July, and it was annulled. I tried my best to find the reason as to why it was annulled, but I don`t know German. But, whatever the reason, the race awarded no points.
Later that year, they stopped by to support the German 500 with two races to end the season, and ultimately, the series. Not much more to say other than the fact that touring cars are oval racing…oh, and German F3 stopped by the oval in 2005 and 2006, but those races went fine. Could you guys, like, accept that you won’t be using the oval at Lausitz very much anymore? And that there is no need to modernize it for 2018, since NASCAR doesn`t seem willing* to send the Euro guys either there or to Rockingham (probably a smart move, though)?
The funny thing is, there was a stranger series that ran an oval, the Thundercup cars or whatever they were called that ran Charlotte`s oval. The field sizes were pitiful at about eight or so, but they got some TV time (usually during the Summer Shootout), and always put on great shows. Don`t know what series I`m talking about?…Remember when Tad Segars rolled his car through the trioval, only to cheer when it came to a stop, something the guys found so entertaining that they showed it during a Truck Series segment in 2008 (forget if it was qualifying or the race)? Yeah, that series. But V8Star gets the spot since the Thundercup guys were awesome.
44. Melody Of Idiocy (DTM, AVUS, 1995)
…AVUS is one of the few tracks that I think DID have to close. It was a classic, but it was behind.
1995 was a terrible year for the track at the Automobil Verkehrs und Übungsstrasse. The classic street circuit had been slowed again with another chicane, yet this barely helped the insanity. The track, once twelve miles long and possessing a massive banked turn, was now a mile and a half and full of slowdown areas. Finances were getting tough, safety was becoming an issue, and the reunification of Germany meant traffic was plentiful again, so officials were taking the possibility of ending AVUS seriously.
The Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft is pretty much the same thing as Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters, being Germany`s `big` series. In 1995, organizers decided to add an International Touring Car Championship that raced in Europe (mostly in Germany), and make the ITCC a sub championship comprising of the DTM series` international races. The DTM`s first run was done in by the officials pushing the ITCC forward into the limelight, and in 1996, the DTM name was thrown out. The ITCC still ran quite a few German races…confused? Well…
Until 1995: DTM
1995: DTM (ITCC as a sub championship, i.e. person who gets the most points in the German races wins the DTM title, and the person who gets the most points in the int’l races gets the ITCC title, with the overall title going to whoever gets the most overall points)
The ITCC was ridden of after 1996. Fans never really cared for it, and thus profit was low, an issue considering they ran two non European races at Interlagos and Suzuka. In 2000, the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters began…whew!
…All right, summary of the incident…this. Right at the start.
Right off the rolling start, one car turned another, and the whole field, which had twenty two cars in it, self destructed. One driver, Kurt Thiim, got away from it, and the race was quickly ended and annulled, so no points. However, Kurt was still credited with the victory, and thus received a trophy for it, though due to its annullment no money and no points were awarded. Everyone was all right after this incident, but about six cars were completely unsalvagable. AVUS eventually closed after 1998, but was used one more time in 1999 for a farewell race.
1995 at AVUS also saw the fatal crash of Keith O`Dor in the Super Tourenwagen Cup, which was basically for BMW and Audi (who had ditched the DTM after 1992) to play around in. It started in 1994 and, when DTM ended, it was almost advertised as its replacement. When DTM returned in 2000, STW was no longer needed (though in actuality, this was mostly due to the price of Supertouring cars going up). There was yet another bizarre accident in 1995 at AVUS, that being when German F3 star and future F1 racer Alex Wurz got dumped by the safety car…but I`ve gone on long enough. Basically, learn how to start the race, guys.
43. Eternity Awaits (NSCS, Atlanta, 2009)
How dumb do you have to be?
Probably the fourth fastest track on the schedule, Atlanta Motor Speedway is also a little longer than the other quadovals, but that`s the extent of the differences. Hitting 200mph is a little tough at Charlotte and Texas, but is much easier at Atlanta. This also means that crashes can hurt a lot more.
So why are you running onto the racing surface unprotected?
#47 Marcos Ambrose`s pit crew saw a tire roll away from them, across the pit lane, and into the grass around where the short track is. Enter the guy who thought it would be a good idea to fetch the tire. Forgetting both what common sense was and that there have been not one, but two crew member fatalities at Atlanta (both due to speeding, however), a crewman, who, unlike what many outlets stated, was not a tire changer (he was the gas man) sprinted across the pit area and onto the grass to fetch the uncontrolled wheel. It likely would have warranted a caution, but now it definitely did, and much earlier than was necessary. This completely screwed things up, and all because Jimmy Watts, the crew member involved, thought it would be a good idea to run out onto an active racing surface. Watts would be ordered to sit out the rest of the race and was suspended for the next four events, and the crew chief of the #47 was put on probation for the rest of the year (as was Watts).
The funny thing is, this wasn`t a twenty year old newcomer making this error. Watts was, at the time of the incident, 37 plus or minus one year, and had been a gas man since at least 2002. You`d think he`d know better, from having seen footage of pit road crashes during training, and from experience, as Watts, a firefighter by profession, has had at least one instance of going into a burning building with a comrade and coming out alone…YOU`D THINK HE`D BE SMART…but I guess he left his brain at home.
42. Nine Gates (NBGNS, Bristol, 1990/2002)
Where was he in that mess, anyway?
Probably one of the more horrifying kinds of accident in motorsports is when the car gets cut in half. This is extremely, extremely infrequent, but it has happened, usually occurring when a car hits an unsecured gate or gets struck especially hard.
Bristol Motor Speedway knows this too well. It’s seen two instances, both in what’s now the Xfinity Series, but was the Busch Series at the time. In 1990, Michael Waltrip, later famous for being the flip* king of NASCAR, made contact with Robert Pressley and shot up into the turn two wall. The car hit a gate and was sawed in twain, but he was okay.
In 2002, Mike Harmon hit the same gate during practice at a more glancing angle rather than Waltrip’s more straight-on angle. Harmon’s car burst open, and Harmon was left exposed to oncoming traffic. Johnny Sauter piled into the wreckage, coming about a foot away from hitting Harmon directly. Sauter was convinced he’d just killed Harmon, but was eventually calmed down and told otherwise. Apparently, the hit was so close to the driver’s compartment that officials later found Harmon’s steering block in what was left of Sauter’s car. Harmon was battered and bruised, but all in all okay.
Tracks are slowly moving away from gates and are beginning to start using to use underground tunnels to get from the outside of the track to the inside. Due to Bristol’s very compressed nature, track owners were reluctant to make the transition, but when they saw the alternative, well…
These two moments are too similar to…incoming horrible pun…separate…so I’ve included them both on here.
41. Runaway (NWS, Riverside, 1988)
…No quirky comment here, I`m here to jokingly diss people, nothing more.
Californian Ruben Garcia`s upbringing, while not truly horrible, was undesirable due to his family`s rather poor financial situation. Garcia wanted to race, but even into early adulthood his financial situation prevented him from doing so. It took years of hard work and determination, but eventually Garcia was able to take to the track. Inspired by what he`d gone through, Garcia began a sort of program. I`m uncertain as to how the program worked, but I do know its goal. The program’s objective was to give drivers who had fallen on hard times financially, and no longer had the money to race, a second chance.
Garcia enjoyed stock car racing, and took to Riverside whenever NASCAR ran there. In 1988, during the very last NASCAR race at Riverside, Garcia drove his #32 car to a pretty good top 20 spot, but it all ended when something broke a third of the way in. The Chevrolet veered left off of turn nine and found a very large opening in the concrete, as in, wayyyy too large. The car hardly lost speed as it plowed through everything there. First to go was a tire wall in front of a steel guardrail, which the car easily folded. Then, a chainlink fence was ripped wide open, followed closely by a brick wall with a set of barrels behind it. Thankfully, this slowed the car enough so Garcia did not enter the crowd, though he certainly came close.
The red flag would be warranted for this as NASCAR tried to construct a temporary barrier as best they could. Ah, the days when NASCAR still cared…Garcia was all right, by the way. He is not related to NASCAR Mexico standout Ruben Garcia, Jr.
Riverside closed the next year. After the NASCAR guys stopped by, the Stock Car layout was decommissioned, and a new shorter layout was used for the track`s very last twelve months.
40. Drumsticked (Formula Truck, Interlagos, 2010)
Did I startle you?
Bruno Junqueira`d fallen pretty far from his open wheel days* when he decided to race tractor trailer units in his home country in 2010, and things were gonna get worse.
Racing tractor trailer units is popular in Brazil, though series for it exist really everywhere, even in America (in fact, wasn`t there a big rig series in the eighties that raced on NASCAR ovals such as Pocono and Atlanta, along with dirt tracks like DuQuoin?…Well, that`s defunct now, but there is an American big rig series today called ChampTruck). These beasts are heavy, but their speeds are limitted to an absolute maximum of 125mph, with between 100 and 110 usually being the top speed reached. The best bet for passing are the turns, and drivers just have to hope their brakes don`t explode…
At Interlagos that year, Junqueira`s truck did just that, leading to a horrible crash.
Diumar Bueno was minding his own business when Junqueira launched over the back of his vehicle, ripping the cab off the Volvo as Junqueira`s Ford launched into the air, almost coming down on the cab of Bueno. Thankfully, when Junqueira did come down, it was on a tire wall, and Bueno`s cab slid free. As Bueno`s chassis began rolling off on its own, Bueno`s cab did two belly rolls, before landing right side up. Junqueira turned side over side through the air in the meanwhile, coming back down to earth inverted.
Bueno hopped out of his cab pretty quickly, and was interviewed at the crash site, of all things. Junqueira was eventually extricated and was okay. This is not the first time a cab has come loose, nor would it be the last. In fact, it wouldn`t even be the last for Diumar Bueno…but let`s not talk about that.
Lehto: Lehto was sentenced to four years in prison not long after his stint in Speedcar ended. Lehto was drinking while piloting a boat, and he crashed, killing a friend of his, said the prosecutor.
Wheeler: The guardrails at Watkins Glen have uprooted and killed open wheel drivers in gruesome fashion at least twice in the past.
Willing: Despite Europe having a couple big ovals, the largest oval NASCAR Euro runs as of 2017 is a half mile.
Flip: He’s flipped five times: Sears Point 1989 (this was in practice), Daytona 2000, Texas 2002, Daytona 2004, Talladega 2005
Days: Junqueira has started the Indianapolis 500 on at least one occasion.